Virtue seems to be an antiquated concept sometimes. For instance, I strive to open doors for women and to teach my sons to do the same. Every once in a while we will hear, “How nice. I don’t have that happen to me much anymore!” My reply is, “Chivalry is not dead yet! “
Instead of outdated, I believe virtues are relevant to our day. They teach us how to live out the morals and values necessary for a flourishing society. Holding a door open is done to show respect, honor, and kindness. My wife and I strive to instill virtues like chivalry into our children. Recently, I have noticed the painful effects of the vice of stinginess. In response, my wife and I are more purposeful this holiday season to train our children to embrace the virtue of generosity.
Generosity, of course, deals directly with finances. However, living generously is much more than just giving financially. I would define generosity as living open-handed with the intention of giving to others. Exhibiting the virtue of generosity is being willing to spend your time, strength, energy and money for others!
Here’s the problem I have with teaching my children the virtue of generosity. I’m not generous by nature! From the small to the big, my focus is naturally on grabbing and keeping for myself. Living a stingy life not only prevents me from teaching my children through example to live generously but it also condemns me before God. For as Jesus taught, “For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul” (Matthew 16:26)? No matter how much I seek to hold on to, when death comes I will lose it!
Therefore, I am so thankful for God’s abundant and amazing grace. He is gracious to all of us who live with our hands clenched toward him and toward our neighbors. God’s generosity is most clearly seen when he gave his son – Jesus. In giving his son, it was not like loaning a book or a tool from the garage – expecting it to be returned in almost the same condition. God gave his son to be destroyed by us. Jesus was pierced for our transgression and crushed for our iniquities, the prophet Isaiah says (Isaiah 53:5). God’s bank account went to zero for us! Jesus died the death we deserve to give us the undeserved offer of eternal life. Eternal life is not a ticket to heaven, but an everlasting relationship with God the Father, achieved through God the Son’s work.
As in the classic “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens, until we see ourselves as deserving of death for our selfishness, we will never live as truly generous. “[Scrooge] read upon the stone of the neglected grave his own name, EBENEZER SCROOGE.” Scrooge realized that all the wealth in the world could not save him from the judgment of death. And if his life was to continue, it would be a gift from God. It was only then, that the man known as odious, stingy, hard, and unfeeling (Mrs. Cratchit’s description of Mr. Scrooge), became transformed to a man known for his generosity. Scrooge “became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”
We each have a limited number of breaths to breathe. A generous person does not hold back dollars, time, sweat, or strength. She recognizes that storing these up won’t do any good. The last accounting will mean bankruptcy for even the most miserly person, as each of our accounts will be zero in the end. It is only when we die to our tight-fisted self and live by the gift of faith in Jesus do we find a life that lasts. “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). A generous person recognizes that every breath, heartbeat, dollar, and talent is a blessings from God given to her, to give to others.
Here are a few practical ideas for how you can be wonderfully generous this Christmas season:
Be generous with your words. Share comments of encouragement and hope. Share greetings with familiar and unfamiliar faces. It’s amazing what a simple “hi” can do. Or, for our Somali neighbors, I recently learned that “say-ta-hi” is how the common Somali greeting ‘seetahay’ is pronounced in English.
Be generous with your time. Evaluate your habits and transfer hours from hobbies or “overworking” and spend that time on your family, friends, neighbors, church family, and those in need.
Be generous with your table. Invite others over for dinner – expecting nothing in return!
Be generous with your position. Let others step ahead of you in line, on the road, or for the seat by the best dish at the table.
Be generous with your possessions. Give away to others. Jesus said to be ready to give away a cloak if asked (Luke 6:29).
Be generous with the requests for donations this time of year. See each request as an opportunity. No matter how many requests you receive, you can give to each one! Perhaps it would be a struggle to give to each financially, but could you not take each letter and pray for the organization or the person? Could you not take a few minutes and write a note of appreciation back to one asking?
Be generous with your tipping. Personally, I think Christians should be the best tippers out there because we have personally experienced the generosity of God despite our bad service.
Be generous with how you think of your friends and family and co-workers. Family and work conflicts always increase this time of year. Remind yourself and others to be generous to affirm whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, and good in those around you this season (Philippians 4:8).
Friends, look around at this tight-fisted world and then look at what God has given you. To everyone God has given gifts of strength, laughter, time, and energy. To the Christian, God has also given abundant joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
We all have so much to share! Enough with the vice of stinginess! Let us make that an antiquated concept this Christmas by living generously with open hands, expecting nothing in return.
Thankful for God’s generous grace in Jesus to a stingy scrooge like me,
Aaron Brockmeier is pastor of Saint Luke’s Church, which meets at 10:15 a.m. Sundays at 1100 9th Ave. SW in Faribault. He may be reached at email@example.com or by calling the church at 507-334-6608. More information about Saint Luke’s Church and upcoming Bible Studies and events can be found by going to http://slcfaribault.com or by following Saint Luke’s on Facebook.